“The United States is running concentration camps on our southern border, and that is exactly what they are — concentration camps.”
U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said this on Instagram on June 17, 2019. Critics immediately piled on. Rep. Steve King posted to Twitter urging Ocasio-Cortez to accept the invitation of a Holocaust remembrance group to tour Auschwitz. Rep. Liz Cheney said, also on Twitter, “6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust. You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this.”
It didn’t matter to these Congresspeople — or any of Ocasio-Cortez’s other critics — that she was describing facilities where those detained had been denied soap and toothpaste, or that children were sleeping on concrete floors.
It didn’t matter to them that that Merriam-Webster defines a concentration camp as “a place where large numbers of people (such as prisoners of war, political prisoners, refugees, or the members of an ethnic or religious minority) are detained or confined under armed guard” — a definition that factually applies to these facilities.
It didn’t matter that, at that point, at least seven children had died in U.S. custody.
All this mattered so little that Cheney actually said, “Allegations that somehow the United States is operating in a way that is in any way a parallel to the Holocaust is just completely ludicrous.”
I wonder whether, had she had the ability to look into the future, Cheney would have refrained from making a statement of such certainty, for one week ago the Department of Homeland Security and its subsidiary agencies — Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection — as well as the private prison corporations they contract were proved to be the American Schutzstaffel.
A whistleblower complaint was filed on Monday, Sept. 14, by four advocacy groups on behalf of Dawn Wooten, a nurse employed at Irwin County Detention Center, Georgia. The complaint alleged that forced hysterectomies had been performed on immigrant women at an “exorbitant rate,” according to Law & Crime.
Yes, a private prison company contracted and overseen by American immigration agencies allegedly conducted one of the hallmarks of Nazi genocide: forced sterilization.
I know this language is incendiary, and in no way do I intend to diminish the horror and lasting damage caused by the Holocaust, or Nazism and fascism generally. It is necessary, however, to relentlessly and on every possible front batter away at the American psyche, to sound the clarion call of resistance to the as-yet-inexorable devolution of America into fascism — a march whose end is closer than most realize.
According to Law & Crime, Wooten said of the doctor performing the operations, “Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy — just about everybody,” adding that “everybody’s uterus cannot be that bad.”
ICE, of course, denied the allegations: Dr. Ada Rivera, Medical Director of the ICE Health Service Corps, said in a statement that ICE “vehemently disputes the implication that detainees are used for experimental medical procedures.” The statement also asserted that “only two individuals at Irwin County Detention Center were referred to certified, credentialed medical professionals at gynecological and obstetrical health care facilities for hysterectomies.”
The denial proves nothing, and the only way the original allegation can be proved or disproved is by conducting a thorough investigation of the facility — which, to her credit, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has called for, according to Forbes.
Unfortunately for ICE, the whistleblower report also makes other specific allegations — for example, a refusal to test detained immigrants for COVID-19. The report itself states:
“Men and women detained at ICDC also overwhelmingly reported not being tested for COVID-19 from March until August 18, where only those in ICE custody in the facility were given the option to be tested, but the same did not apply to those incarcerated at ICDC outside of ICE custody. One woman in Unit C reported that 100 women slept in the unit where women ‘coughed, had fever and other discomforts, but officers did not listen to them when they reported their health problems,’ and that they were never tested for COVID-19. After demanding that the sick women be taken to the medical unit, she reported that the women were finally taken but were brought back within an hour and just given painkillers.”
Allowing disease to spread unchecked through the ranks of the detained, as though they were animals — another textbook example of fascist violence against the groups they victimize.
It strains belief that all allegations made in this report are false, and if they are indeed true, it seems impossible to use any words to describe the utter betrayal of what the United States is supposed to represent.
I don’t mean to imply that America ever truly has embodied it’s purported ideals — Japanese internment camps during World War II and the Tuskegee syphilis experiment are just two examples of the United States’ abuses of human rights — but that this country hasn’t does not mean that it is unable. And it certainly doesn’t mean that fully-realized fascism is unavoidable.
But there are no easy solutions, and historically speaking there is no justice in the world. If there was, officials in the DHS, ICE and CBP as well as the private prison companies they contract and the doctors and nurses employed by them would be sent to the Hague to be tried for and convicted of crimes against humanity.
It won’t happen though, because the United States as a nation has been absolved of a multitude of egregious human rights violations over the course of its history. I can’t say that I’m willing to hold my breath until that changes.
This is where I should offer some kind of hope, some inspiration that there’s something we can all do to change this environment. Unfortunately, I have none to give.
Kyle Gombosi is a senior Music: Elective Studies major with a minor in journalism. KG806059@wcupa.edu